Racism: I learned more than I bargained for.

I never shop at Walmart. I could say I don’t for various political and social reasons, but honestly, I just don’t like the place. The store is huge and noisy, yet the aisles are narrow and claustrophobic. I get lost and can’t find any department, and I almost never see any employees to help me find it. But I needed to go in, because my daughter needed a bathing suit right away, and Walmart is the only place that had them out at a decent price in my area. 

So I gritted my teeth and made what I thought would be a quick trip in and out the door. This wasn’t a quick trip and my daughter got more than just a suit. She got to see racism up close and personal.

Casual Banter in the Parking Lot. 

As I walked to the doors, I passed by a guy who looked like he had just finished a cigarette or he was waiting for his wife. I waved to him and he told my daughter that she had a big, beautiful smile. I said she was getting a swimsuit. We were headed for the pool and her suit from last year was too small. He asked my daughter if she liked to swim and she jumped up and down and said that she did. 

He told me that she was so sweet. I should giver her whatever she wants. I laughed. He corrected himself. He said get her whatever she NEEDs. I agreed. I said if I got her whatever she wanted, half the store would be gone. He laughed and said his daughter was the same way. I waved and told him to have a good one and he said to have fun swimming. We went inside. 

It was just at normal banter you do sometimes. Nothing too thrilling. I would have forgotten about it before I left the store. But now, I’ll never forget it.

Greeter: The one man SWAT team.

I got in the doors, and the greeter ran up to me. He was in his late sixties or early seventies. I was surprised how fast he was on his feet. I thought maybe he thought I was shoplifting or something. He rushed to me with his walkie talkie in hand and called out to me. I was a worried, and then confused. Nobody tried to sneak stuff into Walmart. There’s no way he thought I was a shoplifter.
 
He ran up and asked if I was alright. I said I was fine. He asked if my daughter was alright. I nodded and had no idea why he was acting this way. He asked if I was harassed in the parking lot. I said no. He said that he saw a dangerous looking man call me over. Did he harass me? Was he asking for money? Did he threaten me? Did he threaten my daughter? 
 
I said no and I asked if someone complained about a dangerous man in the parking lot? Maybe it was someone else. He said nobody had complained yet, but he was going to wait and find out. He’d been standing at that door too long. He was up to no good. 
 
 I was about to tell him that I saw guys standing out there all the time. Nobody ever noticed. But I stopped. I looked at the greeter. He was halfway crouched down with his walkie talkie in hand, as if he were about to call the SWAT team in on a potential riot. And he looked scared. He really thought that man was dangerous. He looked like he was going to alert someone to call the police at any moment. 
 
They guy I talked to outside was easily over six feet tall and a very dark skinned black man. I’ve read too many news stories about stuff like this happening. Someone sees something minor or nonexistent, and it all gets way out of hand. I would have just given him an eye roll, but I was very worried this crazy old guy would do something stupid. The guy I spoke to at the door door could have a really bad day, at the very least.
 

“They won’t listen to us.”

I told my daughter that we needed to fix something before we left. She asked what happened. I said the man with the vest on was doing something that could get people hurt. I told her that he was afraid of the man we were talking to in the parking lot. She asked why and I said because the man we talked to looked different than the greeter. She asked if it was because he had dark skin and I said it was. She didn’t say anything after that. I looked around the store for the nearest employee.
 
I was very relieved to see two employees straightening up the women’s department right away. Usually, I spend half an hour and never find anyone.  I was also relieved they were both POC. They’d be more likely to take me seriously. I worried a white employee would defend the greeter’s behavior. Or worse, contribute to the problem, agreeing that the man indeed looked dangerous.
 
I came up and pointed to the door and asked them if they could see the greeter working there. They said yes. I said he was going up and asking people if this one guy looks dangerous. The guy was minding his own business.  There was nothing suspicious happening.
 
I said that I thought he was asking because — and then I stopped. For some reason, I suddenly felt very self conscious about everything. I couldn’t bring myself to say that the man I was worried about was black. 
 
Turns out, I didn’t have to say anything. 
 
Without turning around, one woman said, “Oh. I know who you’re talking about.” 
 
She turned to her friend and said, “See, I told you. I told you he was like that.” 
 
The other woman turned around and after looking at him, she said,
 
“You need to tell a manager. They won’t listen to us if we say anything.”
 
I was naive and thought they said that because they were employees and the managers only listened to customer complaints. But after thinking about it, I thought maybe that wasn’t the case. I could see some manager assuming that the employees were just angry black women. They’d get told to calm down and let the guy do his job. They weren’t there. Maybe the guy was acting suspicious.
 

No! That’s not what I meant!

So, I went to the changing booth and there was an older POC woman at the counter. I told her what I saw out at the entrance. She asked me if the greeter was an older gentleman. I said it was. She rolled her eyes. I said maybe I over reacted, but I was worried this greeter could cause a lot of trouble acting this way. She said I did the right thing. She assured me that the managers would not want this happening. She wanted to get it fixed as soon as possible.
 
She called for managers on the speaker. Nobody came fast enough for her liking. I could tell she was taking this very seriously and wanted to fix this very quickly. In the past, when I’ve had someone call a manager, usually for a return or cash register problems, employees call once and then we stand around waiting forever. She just kept calling over and over. Her tone sounded like someone had keeled over with a heart attack in the department.
 
Finally she said she said a manager was on his way. She said he was very young, but he would be sure this would get taken care of. I should trust him even though he looked very young. She said she was very confident that he’d make sure the greeter was taken care of. 
 
She was right. The guy looked like he was still in high school. But I was relieved that he was POC. With what seemed to be going on during this whole ordeal,  I thought there was still a chance this might get brushed off as no big thing. I was confident this guy would do his best to put an end to it.
 
I told the manager that the greeter was asking me these questions and harassing a man because he was black. The manager gave me a very nasty look. He started to give me what sounded like a canned speech he’d given several times. He said that it had nothing to do with anyone’s color. Black or white, those greeters just do their job.
 
 I said no. This greeter wouldn’t have behaved like this if the man was white. I said that he singled this guy out, and asked me if he harassed me. Did he ask for money? Did he give me a hard tim?
 
The manager just looked at me for a moment. I said, “That man did nothing wrong. You can’t let greeters do that. It’s dangerous. If the greeter called the police… Things might not turn out well.”
 
The manager said, “Oh. Oh. Yes. I see. Yes. I’ll take care of that right now.” Then he ran off. 
 
I wondered how the manager could defend that behavior. Why would he ever think that was appropriate? Then I realized what might have happened.  Maybe he thought that I was complaining that a black greeter was asking me questions and harassing me. I’ve worked retail and I have seen people get offended at simple security issues. And some white customers got extra nasty if the person enforcing the rules wasn’t white. 
 
The manager was likely used to this, hearing that a white greeter was harassing a black customer just never happened. It doesn’t seem to do any good to complain if you’re a minority. Nobody at the store seemed shocked or surprised that the greeter acted like this. And maybe white people never complain about seeing minorities getting harassed. 
 
I don’t know what to think of that. With all of the stuff going on in the news, how could anyone NOT report this? Crazy wannabe vigilante heroes can get people wrongfully arrested, injured, or killed when they behave this way.
 

Swift justice? I hope so.

 My daughter and I grabbed a swim suit off the rack and went to the register as fast as we could. I didn’t want to deal with this anymore. My register was right next to the entrance. It had been less than five minutes. That greeter was gone. I hope he’s getting heavy training or he end up fired. 
 
I don’t feel vindictive towards him. I sincerely believe that his racist behavior  will someday cause serious harm to innocent people if he’s not taught how to handle his fears. Nobody can fix his racism, but they can fix his behavior. If they can’t manage him, he shouldn’t work as a greeter. He can’t properly do his job if he’s paranoid and afraid of an entire group of people.
 

What’s the point?

I don’t know if I really have a point. I just wanted to write about it because I got all hopped up over it. It was such a mess, and it was obvious that so many things have been going on for a long time. Not just in that store, but everywhere. I don’t want to pick it all apart, but so many things were wrong with this encounter. From the greeter harassing someone, to employees that assumed (correctly, maybe?) that nobody cared, to the kid manager assuming nobody would point out that behavior. 
 
I’m very glad that things seemed alright at the end. The way they were going, I’m not confident anything would’ve happened had the manager been white. Maybe I’m a pessimist, but I could see them thanking me for bringing it up. Even if they didn’t approve, they wouldn’t have said anything. They might think what I’ve thought before.
 
The greeter is old. Old people can’t help acting that way. Just leave it be. That greeter won’t change. There’s no need to upset him. I’ve said it. I’ve thought it. Why upset that poor old man? He probably doesn’t even know what he’s doing is wrong. It wasn’t wrong when he was a kid…
 
Maybe once that was acceptable, but not now. Not when people are getting killed right next to stores with nothing but cigarillos or candy in their pockets. Not when kids get killed for wearing a hooded sweatshirt. 
 
It’s awful when it ends, but nobody thinks about how those situations begin. It can begin with one person getting excited over nothing. Maybe they’ll just complain and act like a jackass. But maybe they’ll call the cops. Maybe the police will realize there’s no danger at the scene, but often they don’t. 
 

Am I over the top about this?

 
I don’t know what I can say without sounding like the dreaded SJW. But this is different. This is serious. I know many white people who get angry when when they see this, but they don’t say anything. Hating the behavior isn’t enough.  For whatever reason, this all gets swept under the rug and ignored unless a white person complains about it. If anyone else complains, it’s written off as POC overreacting. 
 
If you’re white, doing nothing could be just as bad as harassing someone. Maybe you can help stop this crazy stuff from happening before it begins. How would it feel to find out the guy you waved at in the parking lot ended up dead because some person thought the guy was dangerous — because he waved to you? 
 
I hope I don’t sound too preachy or like I think I’m this great hero or something. I just had to write about this and get it out of my system. If I said something offensive, call me out on it. I’d rather get told so I can fix my writing, rather than offending people all over the place.
 
Next post I write, I’m going to talk about the unpleasant encounter I had in Twitter over this. I need opinions, because I’m not sure if I behaved properly to this young (white) girl who said some things that were true, but I didn’t like the way she said them. 
 
I’ve said enough now. I’ll leave it at that. 
 
 

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s